Massachusetts Governor Hosts Education Summit

This morning, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick hosted Education Summit 2011: Closing the Achievement Gap. Joined by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and members of the Boards of Early Education and Care, of Elementary and Secondary Education, and of Higher Education, along with the UMass Board of Trustees, he issued a call to action: make sure every child in Massachusetts has the opportunity to access quality education.

Governor Patrick echoed what we at City Connects see in our schools every day: poverty and other out-of-school factors can be huge impediments to a child’s ability to learn and thrive in school. The Boston Globe reported on a new study showing the concentrations of poverty across the city today. The Governor said:

“We know what the problem is and we know where the problem is. The problem is poverty.  It’s not unions, people; we are leading the nation in student achievement in one of the most highly-unionized environments in American education.  It’s not money; in K-12 we are spending at record levels and have sustained that spending, thanks to the Legislature and the Obama administration, through the worst economy in living memory.  It’s poverty …  I’m not saying that we don’t need more flexibility in the classroom and more money.  I’m saying when it comes to patterns of educational achievement nothing is as significant as poverty.”

His speech laid out four strategies that build upon the Achievement Gap Act of 2010 (read a summary of the Act here):

  1. Getting every child to reading proficiency by the third grade;
  2. Providing every child with a healthy platform for education;
  3. Creating a differentiated education system that meets each student, particularly English Language Learners, where they are; and
  4. Preparing all students for college and career success.

The Governor’s second priority closely parallels the work of City Connects’ School Site Coordinators, who work to provide tailored supports and enrichment services to children. He expounded on this strategy:

“…All children need a healthy start – and when they can’t get it at home, we must find a way to provide it for them.  Poverty begets a whole host of out-of-school problems that affect the readiness of a child to learn in the classroom.  Mental health issues, family violence, housing instability and inadequate nutrition – all are real and present obstacles to student attendance, attentiveness and success.  Teachers know it and they, along with school nurses, do their very best to help; but they can’t be expected single-handedly to solve such complex problems in the lives of their students. So, we propose establishing Student Support Councils and deploying Student Support Counselors to predominantly low-income schools.  Possibly even early education centers or colleges.   These Councils will consist of local human and social service providers focusing their efforts on connecting with students and families through the schools to help meet their needs outside of school.”

Following the Governor’s speech, breakout sessions were held on teacher quality, student support, and career readiness. City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh was asked to serve as a guest speaker for the student support session, where she relayed her experiences and views on the best practices of student support. We know that optimized student support improves academic performance for students and look forward to learning more about statewide student support initiatives.

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